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New project at Descanso Gardens goes green

Botanical showcase is on the way thanks to a $2.1M donation.

July 14, 2010|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com
  • (Left to right) David Brown, Executive Director of Descanso Gardens, Heather Sturt Haaga and Paul G. Haaga Jr. of La Ca-ada Flintridge prepare to break ground on the Sturt Haaga Gallery of Art at Descanso Gardens on Friday, July 9. The Haagas donated $2.1 million to build the project. Mrs. Haaga is the Chairman of the Descanso Gardens Board of Trustees.
(Left to right) David Brown, Executive Director of Descanso… (By Martha Benedict,…)

Nature will be calling people into Descanso Gardens louder than before when spring arrives. For the first time since 1994, when the rose gardens were installed, the botanical showcase is undergoing major construction.

The private groundbreaking ceremony for Descanso's new Sturt Haaga Gallery of Art was held Friday. The 2,800-square-foot exhibit hall is being designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners of Los Angeles, and will feature a vertical and rooftop garden.

Heather Sturt Haaga and Paul G. Haaga Jr. of La Cañada Flintridge made the construction a reality through a $2.1-million donation, the single largest Descanso has ever received, garden officials said.

"Heater and Paul have a history of making inspired and inspiring gifts around the renovation of historically significant structures," Executive Director of Descanso Gardens David Brown said.

The family was recently featured in the Los Angeles Times celebrating the opening of the Haaga Family Rotunda, which was named in their honor of the family's $5 million donation, at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in Exposition Park.

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The donation allows Descanso to begin an idea they've had in the works since the fall of 2006, repurposing and renovating the Boddy House garage. Since the early 1960s, artists have been showing their work at Boddy House, the former home of the late Manchester Boddy, who established the estate in the 1930s.

David Brown, executive director of Descanso Gardens, said this new project allows Descanso to become a more vital resource for the community, ensures the future of a vital, historical asset and strengthens the reputation of Descanso Gardens as a museum of living collections.

"Having a proper gallery and well-defined exhibition program furthers Descanso's identity as a museum and a site of historic interest — and distances us from the recreation and park identity many people have of us," Brown said.

The Haagas are longtime supporters not only of Descanso but of many other Southern California cultural institutions, including the Polytechnic School in Pasadena and Berea College in Berea, Ky.

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